Author: Danielle Uidam
Publisher: Indie author
The Malthus Conspiracy by Danielle Uidam is gripping right from the Prologue.
The story begins in Surrey, England, in 1798, with the Rev Thomas Robert Malthus presenting his paper, An Essay on the Principle of Population to the Economic Society. The paper creates a furore.
The story then moves to the University of Virginia, USA, in 2012, where Dean and Felix, two undergraduate students at the University, are given an assignment at college, namely, to discuss the impact that natural and manmade disasters have had on the world’s population in the light of Malthus’ theory. The two decide to write on the impact of disease control like vaccines on population.
Their research leads them to Matthew Tersin, a researcher who developed the first anti-influenza serum and later went on to research the causes of the disease with a view to preventing it from breaking out. They discover that Tersin, who should have been hailed as a hero, killed himself. Further research indicates that Shutlam, a top medical research facility, took over the research but did not pursue it. Felix hacks into the facility’s server but finds little information on Tersin. Later his laptop’s IP address is traced, his room ransacked and his laptop and papers stolen.
The chapters flit alternately between England and later Europe in previous centuries to the University of Virginia in 2012. And so we learn of the establishment of the Malthusian League for the purpose of tackling the population problem aggressively, and the steady expansion of the organisation. The plan is to unleash war and disease so that the poor and the dispossessed can be eliminated. Real-life events like the World wars, the Holocaust and the assassinations of heads of state are all seen here to be the handiwork of the Malthusian League.
By now, Felix and Dean are both determined to unravel the conspiracy of who is the modern-day equivalent of the Malthusian League. They meet the grandson of Dr Tersin for answers. Unfortunately, the grandson is murdered, and detective Isabella Mercena deputed to investigate the murder.
The novel ends with numerous addenda on the history of the Spanish Flu, statistics related to population growth and density, and population issues relevant today.
The story deftly moves back and forth between the two centuries, unraveling the puzzle bit by bit. The section in which Detective Crey is confronted and chased by the hired killer is excellently written. Uidam succeeds in communicating the strain felt by Crey as he finds himself making mistake after mistake in a desperate attempt to escape the hired killer.
There is a constant sense of rushing along with the characters. The short chapters enable the swift and heady pace. And the tempo manages to sweep the reader along, making the action almost seem like real time. Uidam does a fantastic job of drawing the net closer around the three leads.
When I read about the newer strains of once conquered diseases that are showing up with a vengeance, I am not so sure about whether The Malthus Conspiracy is a work of fiction. It just seems so real.
Uidam deserves bonus points for the delineation of the characters. The madcap Felix, who never loses his sense of humour in the most dangerous of situations, Dean, the more studious of the two, Isabella, the tough cop who finds herself having to outrun the law, and Ralph Scalary, the reclusive genius. The dialogue always remains true to the character.
The non-traditional older woman and younger man pairing is a welcome break from societal traditions in which the man is always the protector and the woman the protected. Here it is a pleasant change to see a woman take charge and get out of dangerous scrapes thanks to her intellect and superior training, rather than having to wait for the hero to come and rescue her.
There is enough action and plenty of twists and turns to keep you hooked. Uidam has the happy knack of ending her chapters on just the right note, ensuring that her readers are at the edge of their seats, with their hearts in their mouths, unwilling to keep from turning the page to see just what happens next.
PS. Hollywood, you might consider getting in touch with Danielle Uidam. Here is a conspiracy theory that would make fantastic viewing.